susan: mark clague, that was jimmy hendrix playing his version of the star-spangled banner at woodstock. let's talk about your book. mark: i am smiling as i hear that because to be is still the most amazing performance of star-spangled banner in history. jimi hendrix, 1969, the youth of america conditioning a different future for the nation. i teach a course in american music for first-year students and i think partially to make myself look cool i play jimi hendrix and the star-spangled banner because i figure if i am talking about american music,
what could be more american than the star-spangled banner? the questions lead me on a quest that has taken me more than a decade to figure out where the song came from, what it has meant in different moments in american history. but it started with hendrix in woodstock and this fusion of patriotism and protest reflecting the turmoil of 1960's in one of the greatest moments. susan: you describe your book is a cultural biography. what does that mean? mark: i think of the star-spangled banner almost as a person that was living through some pivotal moments of american history and one of my beliefs about the song is that it is actually a living document. it is not a frozen icon, it is not static. he constantly changes and is alive and brought to life in performance by people like jimi hendrix.
every time we sing the song, we elevate the questions and tension and crisis and hope in the song a new. for me, it is a living document to history and that is why i call it a biography. susan: you became very interested in the star-spangled banner and you said jimi hendrix himself was obsessed about it and performed it more than 70 times in two years. what does that say to you about the role of this song in our society? mark: most people think of it hendrix because of this iconic moment in woodstock as an have spontaneously played it once but in fact he started playing it one year before and played it up -- and continued to play it up through one year after woodstock. i think hendrix was trying to
figure out who he was in his relationship to the nation by sort of practicing the song on his guitar, he was singing it with a guitar in a way that became his own personal expression of what it means to be american. a mixed race man at a time during racial tumble on the civil rights movement, he was trying to figure out where he belonged as a person within american history and i think that is what is fascinating about this song. if we think of it as something constantly in flux and changing, it resonates with the historical moment in which it is performed on this change over the last 200 years, the melody comes from the time of our revolutionary war and we have a history of america in this song but it is because it resonates and responds through the artistry of those performing, and every day
americans singing it, that gives it its meaning today. susan: it was written in 1814. when did it become the national anthem? mark: officially march 3, 1931 but within american cultural practice, it was july 4, 1861, the fourth of july at the beginning of the u.s. civil war when by law the number of stars on the flag is supposed to be adjusted to match the number of states. so the federal government does not recognize the states that succeeded as having left the union so the number of stars on the flag stays the same. and the star-spangled banner at that time, becomes the symbol of union and the song the
star-spangled banner became the rallying cry of the union forces . so the sacrifices of the lives of the soldiers fighting in the country to preserve the union and and slavery is what makes it sacred to us. so it was referred to as the national anthem as early as the 1830's, one hundred years before officially becoming the anthem. so really congress and hoover who signed the bill came late to the party and recognize something that was already true in practice. susan: when it was written and the writer of the star-spangled banner makes it controversial. francis scott key is remembered for the song but he did more, you said in your book. mark: he was an amazing figure in history.
i grew up in michigan, where i teach and was born in 1966. i was nine years old when the nation celebrated the bicentennial and i fell in love with the idea and notion of america and the star-spangled banner has held meaning for me. i knew the basics of the myth, francis scott key was a prisoner on the ship and he saw the flag after the bottle of baltimore and this lyric appeared in -- the battle of baltimore and the lyrics appeared in his mind. the truth is more interesting. that is what is fascinating about history, getting into the details. one issue is who francisco scott key was -- who was francis scott key? he was born 1779. right after the revolution, his
father fought in the rafters and war, his uncle was a -- his father fought in the revolutionary war and his uncle was a british sympathizer. the issue of the day was slavery and he was a slave owner and also represented black americans suing for their freedom. the amount of work he did as a legal advocate for blacks suing for freedom, he successfully freed 180 nine people during his legal career. it does not -- 189 people during his legal career. he was an antislavery slaveowner, which does not make any sense.
i think it shows how throughout history we have struggled with the notion of what freedom means and how those motions apply. like others in his era, like john jay, people in that era were on both sides of the issue, looking for a pragmatic solution. the american capitalization society tried to get slaveowners to voluntarily receive their slaves. by law at that time in states like virginia it was required to remove people from the state if they were freed. so the colonization society offered to take people to africa , which was inherently racist because you could not take
someone back to africa who was actually american, born in the united states, but not recognized as a citizen. so the colonization society had a idea slavery could be ended peacefully and no one would get hurt on the war would not be necessary and key was a major fundraiser for that. susan: and responsible for the freedom of a couple hundred of black americans. what was his approach to the enslaved people in his life? mark: he followed family tradition and there were at least five slaves in his georgetown house and referred to as servants, not slaves. i think it was a euphemism. i think he saw himself as benevolent and caring for people and saw those who were enslaved in his household as people.
i do not think he saw them as equals, that would have been unusual for the era. one of the interesting things he did is he freed the slaves in his household during his lifetime. seven during his lifetime and the others in his will. he would provide jobs and skills training by apprenticing slaves in his household to a blacksmith shop in order to allow them to learn a trade and be financially independent. one claim was that he perp -- he opposed abolition because he did not want to see slavery and so quickly that slaves freed were in poverty. so he always had training to allow them to contribute to society and make a living. that was opposed to the rhetoric he had with the society which
said that freed african-americans had to be removed from the state. susan: and he had a famous brother-in-law. mark: roger tawney, also a bit of an enigma. vilified as the author of the dred scott decision that took away constitutional rights of black americans, or made it clear they did not have any in the run-up to the civil war. roger tawney also freed his own slaves in the 1820's and supported the amistad decision which was a famous slave ship that john quincy adams represented the rights and resulted in the release of the captives of the ship. one thing about history is that it is not as history -- it is not as simple as it seems and probably he deserves some reconsideration. susan: in the war of 1812, was
francis scott key a soldier? mark: he was a quartermaster in the militia defending georgetown and then in a battle one month before the attack on fort mchenry when british troops marched almost unopposed into washington dc and desecrated the federal buildings of the city, burned the capital and the president's home and the navy yard's and patent office, he was running messages back and forth between commanders. so he was considered an upper-class gentleman in georgetown and have certain privileges. he was opposed to the war of 1812 but when british troops were threatening his town and family, he volunteered to fight in the war.
but his total service was probably just a couple of weeks. not a major or important military figure and that is one reason why he was expendable and was sent on the mission to help negotiate the release of dr. william banks who had been captured after the battle of washington and that is what brought keith to baltimore to witness the attack on fort mchenry. susan: how did he find himself on a ship watching the british bombardment of fort mchenry? mark: there is a map in my book that is incredibly detailed and gives the 17 days leading up to the publishing of the first version of the star-spangled banner. he starts in washington dc and finds out from a family member
that the doctor was captured and he is sent on a mission by present madison and definitely an insider in american politics although not a politician. he goes to baltimore and basically hires a boat to take him and the u.s. agent of prisoners to rendezvous with the british fleets and it is uncertain what the british fleet would do at that point. went aboard ship negotiating the release of the doctor, the british high command decides they will go after baltimore. baltimore was a thorn in the side of the british, the third-largest city in the u.s. in 1814 and an important shipyard. the baltimore clippers were fast ships used to harass british commercial shipping so when the war was declared, one thing was
privateers, american captains and ships were given permission to seize the cargo of british merchant ships so this was economic warfare and the british fleet was in the chesapeake in the summer of 1814 in order to get revenge and harass the american coastline and government and attacking baltimore was a prime target because a lot of the ships that captured british goods came out of baltimore. so they wanted revenge. they wanted to get into baltimore harbor and be able to attack the city with canons or defeat the ground forces and then burn it to the ground and take the wealth as retribution for the damage baltimore had caused. it was an intense battle and i think when keith saw fort mchenry -- key saw fort mchenry
held in the bravery of the militia and the forces, i mean they were outgunned. british ships had the most advanced weapons ever constructed by that time. they could shoot farther and had bigger munition. they were basically sitting ducks but they had the courage to stay and hold the fort against all odds. the odds turns in their favor and francis scott key saw this as a saving of the country. the unity, bravery, heroism, and god is smiling on the country and guaranteeing the promise of a country going forward. that spark of hope inspires him to write the star-spangled banner. susan: so on board the ship he kept his eye on the flag. the size of the flag made it easier for him to follow. mark: it was enormous.
it is preserved in the smithsonian museum of american history. it is one of the largest flags created, certainly at the time. it was commissioned by a general in command of the four. he wanted a flag that was so large that the british could see it from a distance and they would see it as a challenge and a signal of resistance. the flag is a symbol and key grabs onto that. it is a practical symbol for him. people do not know exactly where he is but he probably is moved during the battle. the british thought it was going to be a quick battle like in washington dc.
so the amount of resistance was a surprise but the flag became a symbol of that and as long as the flat was there, key could see there was still hope that baltimore would be saved and his sister-in-law lived in baltimore and he had family and friends and for him this was a personal attack. so he was disillusioned with the british that he had long admired. he was a british dissent. -- descent. susan: i want to tie up about the lyrics. he had three days to write the lyrics but you make the point as a lawyer he was a man of words and words were important to him. paying attention to the lyrics, there is an important part, the first versus what we always hear. but it ends with a question. can you talk about that first verse?
mark: part of what makes it so powerful is the way it tells the story of the battle. he is witnessing aboard his own american ship. he is under guard, effectively prisoner but he is on an american ship and he watches this bombardment overnight. it is horrific. bomb after bomb. fortunately, the bombs were not devastating. very few casualties. the land was pretty resistant to the attack but he's all rockets and bombs going by. -- but he saw the rockets and bombs going by. the high notes are the moat -- are the moments of tension for
him, knowing the risks the soldiers are facing. the flag becomes the symbol of the result of the battle. this was not a time where there was any electronic communication , no radio, no radar. there was very little information. the only thing you really know is if the flag is they are not. so that was the court -- that was the critical question for him, who is in control and if his nation has a future. when we sing this today, we think of it representing the powerful nation we became. in 1814, we were not. the british walked into our capital and we were not able to repel them and they basically attacked cities that will.
so he gives a vision of what he hopes the country will become. so for me, the question is the powerful notion of, will we live up to the example of the heroes of fort mchenry? when we sing it today it is interesting to think about that question, which is literal and symbolic for him but now when we? bring? the song alive, it asks, will we have the courage to participate so to me, the question is a call for citizenship. the second verse is about the uncertainty. the first verse he is asked if the flag is still there. the second verse he is talking about the clouds in the best of the next morning. the bombing has stopped. this creates ambiguity.
if the bombing stopping could mean the british gave up or that they took over the fort and are no longer attacking. so nightfall and the darkness creates uncertainty. the second verse is about that, on the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep. the flag is fluttering. he sees it through his spyglass but the wind has not picked it up, it is hanging down so he cannot tell which flag it is, the union jack or star-spangled banner. it catches the breeze and he sees the flag is still there. the third verse is about vilifying the enemy. it is the most controversial versus, it was left out of textbooks and schools and out of church hymnals. it is not part of the official star-spangled banner but it is the first that contains the word slave.
the third vilifies the bad guys, the british enemy he is disillusioned by. the fourth verse is the triumph and hope. it is where he sees the vision of a land where free men will stand. he sees as that heaven rescued, a land in which god has trusted. it is the verse of triumph and hope and challenge to future generations. susan: the controversial language in the third verse, you investigated what it meant. what did you find? mark: it is one of the things i was troubled with, and what surprised me and went against my
intuitions is probably the word slave meant different things then than it does now. i explored three possible interpretations. the first definition is like we of it today, black people held captive as labor in the colonies in early america, the law of the land at the time. abolitionists and african-americans would have seen the incredible irony of a song celebrating freedom invoking the word slave. amazingly for most white americans at this time, particularly men who were the ones who had power and authority , they would have interpreted it in a myopic way. the word slave is use a lot in american patriotic rhetoric going back to revolutionary times.
it refers to the distinction between europe which was a land of kings in which citizens were subjects, not free, independent operators. so what was celebrated after the revolutionary war was liberty. freedom. the notion that american citizens, white men, could decide whether or not to fight in a war. in england with king george, who we revolted from in 1776, still king in 1812, king george orders his subjects into battle in britain. so the contrast in the third verse which is about the british enemy is distinguishing between the british bad guys who were subjects of king george and not fighting of their own free will and who were hirelings and
professional soldiers fighting for money and to take the wealth from baltimore and ransom cities on the american coast. and they were slaves in that they fought at the king's behest rather than their own free will. american militia by contrast, the good guys, were volunteers and were free to choose to fight or not. so i think that is what the word slave would have meant by white americans then. the third interpretation is personally what i think motivated francis scott key himself is hireling and slave, that phrase is not plural. it is not talking about all of the british enemy, singular.
hireling and slave. i think he was thinking specifically about major general robert ross, the leader of the british contingent who ordered the burning of washington and imprisonment of dr. william banks so the fact that it switches distinguish -- distinctively in that phrase, he uses cingular to talk about the hiring and slave and he was trapped on board a ship for three days and did not know much about the battle but one thing reported back to washington, d.c. is that major general robert ross was killed by an
american sniper and quickly dragged on shore and died en route. so the terror of flight and gloom of the grave applies specifically to major general robert ross and i think that is what he was probably thinking in the aristocratic language of the day. he refers to it symbolically. susan: we are at the halfway point of our conversation with mark clague. one myth you dispel is that it was a poem later set to music. mark: it looks like a poem when you look at the lyrics. it has the rhyme scheme and all
things we expect poetry to have. what was common then was writing songs to reflect pivotal moments in life. campaign songs, fourth of july songs, songs about controversies, war, party songs of the federalists and democratic republicans. so songwriting was alive and well and the way political songwriting worked, you took on melody already well-known and wrote new words to fit it. this was done with yankee doodle, which had short lines used to insult people. the melody we know today as the star-spangled banner originates in london in 1773 as the anthem
of a musicians club and it was brought to the u.s. by a group of london actors and as early as 1793, 20 years before the writing of the star-spangled banner, people in america started writing topical political lyrics to the song to this tune. and that is exactly what he did in 1814. the first hit lyric to the tune is called atoms in liberty and was about president john adams and offered support to him during the war with france in 1798, a pivotal moment in american legal history. not necessarily a flattering one, but important. this song gave voice to support
for john adams and it was used as a campaign song for thomas jefferson, the fourth of july, and by francis scott key in 18 oh five, nine years before writing the star-spangled banner, he wrote another song called when the warrior returns. it celebrated the heroism of a captain in the u.s. navy fighting in the barbary war in north africa. he was being paraded around the east and celebrated by various communities for his heroism and one of those places was at georgetown and key had just moved to the nation's capital and was looking for a way to introduce himself to future legal clients so he wrote a song for a dinner called when the warrior returns. so we know that he knew the melody that was later used for
the star-spangled banner because he had previously written other lyrics to the same tune. so when he is trapped aboard ship for three days from wednesday morning through friday night is he carefully constructs lyrics to encourage unity and strong military and piety, these things he wants to see happen. it talks about a world he sees and hopes for rather than what he is living for. -- living in. but he uses the previous melody. the phrase star-spangled, he used it first to talk about that flag.
he coined the phrase. he talks about the star-spangled flag of our nation in 1805 in the earlier lyric so there are a lot of echoes in the star-spangled banner from the previous lyric. it was a way people brought emotion into the service of political hopes and dreams. susan: it has become a ritual at virtually every sporting event to sing it. how did that happen? mark: it was not common in the early history of professional american sports. the first time i found it to be sung for sports was may of 1862 in a baseball game in brooklyn,
new york. if you wanted music at a sporting event, used to have a band. we did not have recordings. we did not have public address systems that could amplify a recording. it was not until the 1920's that we have public address systems that can amplify a recording for a crowd so if you were going to have music at a sporting event, you needed a band. so you knew used it -- so you used it for opening day and special occasions in the world series. it was played at the first world series in 1903 and it was not until 1917 that it was performed before every game of the world series. in world war i, american
professional sports is facing a crisis. professional sports are deemed a nonessential occupation. if you were a fighting aged male, you were required to be working in a wartime occupation. in the military or working in a business supporting the military like manufacturing planes. athletes in great physical shape were prime candidates for the draft. so many american baseball players were drafted and teams were decimated. they have pitching staffs of six or eight and they were down to one or two for the world series. professional sports leagues started to align themselves with patriotism for their own economic interest, to show that
they were part of the war effort on the home front. because world war i ended pretty quickly, the u.s. got involved in 1916 and in 1918 it was over. or maybe 1917. but the u.s. came in at the end of the war and then it was over. so professional baseball, the major sport at the time, was saved because of armistice. when world war ii rolled around, sports were not going to be caught behind the eight ball, they would not be declared nonessential so sports teams got out in front of it. i thought pearl harbor was the day the star-spangled banner exploded in american life but it
actually happened earlier. before pearl harbor, it was being played at every professional sports game in the u.s. every baseball game started with it. it is the feeling of threat and uncertainty that rallies them around the national anthem and then the song makes people feel like they can withstand and will be able to survive the international crisis. after world war ii we have had the star-spangled banner and one thing i found is a photograph of president truman in 1945 meeting with the commissioner of the national football league, which was not the powerhouse it is now, it was at the beginning of the growth of football in america but he is the president a golden ticket to any game and
promises at that point the star-spangled banner will be played at every game and as much a part of a football game as the kickoff. that's the first time we can document a promise from a sports league to play it at every game. susan: we going to run out of time but whitney houston at the super bowl in 1991 come we are going to play it. ♪ >> ♪ ♪ oh say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? ♪ ♪ susan: for you, the whitney houston performance is definitive. why? mark: it is considered by many
people to be the best performance of the national anthem ever. i think it is the passion and devotion she communicates through her voice. it is interesting about the music is that it is pretty nontraditional. there is an extra beat added to every measure in her performance so it feels more like a slow march or a church hymn, than it does like that star-spangled banner, which is in a triple meter, like a waltz. it gives her voice time to expand and blossom but also allows her to bring in a gospel style, taking the at them to church, if you will. when people hear that performance, which was during a
time of crisis in american identity, she captures that moment for people by making the sacred message of devotion to the nation so when people hear that version, they do not think about the ornamentation or the changes to the music, what they think is that, this is true, this is real, she believes what she is saying, she is embodying the ideals of the lyric. i think it is a powerful statement from a black woman singing to an international audience in the super bowl. susan: the positive aspect is that the banner builds community. the negative is it has become a straitjacket and any deviation causes controversy.
in 2006, let us listen to a clip of that version. ♪ it immediately became controversial but your research suggests people have been translating the star-spangled banner for a long time. mark: that version was released during a time of intense debate about immigration policy and we are still struggling and have not seen -- have not solved the problem today but it was meant to show there are many loyal americans in the u.s. who spoke spanish. what people do not realize at the time is that that version,
that transition, was commissioned by the u.s. government during world war i as a spanish translation to build support for the u.s. effort, not only to help americanize spanish speakers at home but also to reach out to latin america and places that might get involved in the war. so we have used translation as a tool to welcome a broader set of americans and to allow them to express patriotism in their native tongue. not in a way that disables or contradicts the english version, but in ways that broadens it. i found over 100 translations in more than 40 languages, beginning in 1851 with a version from texas of the anthem in german. it was used as a recruiting tool in the civil war to bring german speakers into that army and 20%
of the union army was of german descent and spoke german during the civil war. susan: in 1990, roseanne barr at a san diego padres game, another transformative performance. in a negative way. >> [screaming anthem] [boos] susan: what happened to roseanne barr's career after that? mark: i remember that firestorm in 1990. she was vilified. it was interpreted as her intentionally insulting the nation.
she was a huge media figure at this time and had the number one tv show in the nation and all sorts of projects but she represented this iconoclastic character. i tried to avoid writing about this for many years because i find it personally grating that i ended up developing sympathy for her because i think she tried to sing it well. she started off to high -- too ghih -- high. so then she's tried to pull it off by going into character and people vilified her. susan: what did she learn? mark: i think she learned she had the freedom to try again. in a more recent television show
she sang it for a little league game and she sung it well. i think she learned the bad memory that she as an american had the freedom to try again and correct her mistake. so that is an inspiring story that she came back and did it in a way she was proud of. susan: talk to me about the history of the banner and the civil rights movement. mark: it's interesting. i was able to trace lots of connections between the anthem and the civil rights movement. today we are polarized and we see the anthem and the question of slavery, where does it fit in history, there is tension between patriotism and progressivism. what bible tries to do is show
-- what my book tries to show it they were allied in many parts of american history and the anthem as a protest song is part of its history. one place i was able to find that is in the civil rights movement. there were protests in new york i document where groups protesting on equal hiring practices in the construction industry laid down in front of equipment and all saying the star-spangled banner in order to express a civil rights protest. and in another performance in selma after the violence on the british -- on the bridge, the next day there was a prayer vigil and those assembled sang the star-spangled banner. so the message is we are also americans.
i think every time it is performed there is a claim of belonging. whether in translation or in a different style like whitney houston with gospel elements, that says, i am here, i am american, i am part of this story, i am part of this patriotic message. and there is a message of devotion and hope. so for me, understanding the role of the star-spangled banner alongside this little light of mine and we shall overcome and all the civil rights anthems we think of, right before martin luther king gave the i have a dream speech, the star-spangled banner was sung. it was wanting america to live up to its ideals and not calling for revolution for destroying
the country, but calling for reform and recognition. susan: a well-known protest about the star-spangled banner is: cap her neck -- is colin kapearnick. >> refusing to stand during the national anthem again. this time, he took a knee behind the service being honored. as the crowds stand, you can see him on the sideline. >> he is receiving boos. susan: how did you come to view his protest? mark: incredibly grateful to him for drawing attention to the issue of race and the history of the star-spangled banner.
i initially wanted to write my book for the bicentennial of the anthem and i think it would've been a different book because when he took a knee to point out that the country was not living up to its ideals, it's not a protest of the song, so much that he is using the ritual of the song as an opportunity to draw attention to another issue. when he knelt, it brought the issue to the fore and the black lives matter movement challenged me as a history to dig deeper into the use of the anthem and protests. one thing i came across while searching through early african-american newspapers was evidence of the first time an african-american refused to stand for the star-spangled banner.
december, 1860, right before the civil war. lincoln had just been elected. the question was, would slavery be ended in america or would the nation once again compromise and accommodate slavery to have unity in the north and south? so he is part of a long tradition of using the anthem for protest. for me, the reference to freedom and bravery in the lyrics are an opportunity. it forges the anthem as kind of an alarm bell. when the anthem makes us uncomfortable in the celebration of unity is when we see disunity, and that is what he does. when he kneels, he is indicating something else is going on. and that makes us question things. and the anthem's ability to
create dissidents and make us aware of those who may be are not being served equally by those ideals is the power of the song that is valuable. i see it kind of as a barometer of freedom, which was ironic in 1844 when the first abolitionist lyric was written to the same tune, calling to the end of slavery and used the reference for freedom to point out that many in the united states were not free. but the history of the anthem and protests for me is what makes it valuable. susan: i am going to close with a very traditional version of it in the inauguration. ♪ >> o'er the land of the free and
the home of the brave? ♪ ♪ [applause] susan: mark clague there are calls by people who do not like the origin of the star-spangled banner in our society to have it replaced. what is your response? mark: i think there is probably a need to at least make it explicit what the star-spangled banner is. the law in 1931 that named it the anthem of the u.s. is ambiguous. it just says it is the national anthem. it does not tell you what the words are exactly. that third verse references slave, it was not removed
intentionally. it probably needs to be made explicit today and i think that would be an affirmative message of inclusion. replacing the anthem would be incredibly controversial and i think i would find it to be sad in the sense that it would deny this history that to me is valuable. it is valuable to see american history through the star-spangled banner and having a song that celebrates the ideal of freedom and equality and the bravery of the nation serves as a bellwether and helps guide us into the future so i think there is value in the song. i think it is possible we could think of anthem moments in sports as referring to a repertory, maybe we should be playing america the beautiful or
god bless america, other songs could be used in those rituals. it would broaden the notion of what american patriotism is. i would welcome that change. but in terms of changing the song, it would be up to american people, not the legislature. i think what made the anthem what it is was the civil war. it was not practice, the way it was used. he was not a bill in congress and the president's signature. so with we have a new song it would mean there has to be another moment in american history that captures the marriage -- that captures the imagination of the nation, a heroic moment that is celebrated in song and that song would have to catch fire with americans in a way that speaks to everyone. when that happens, a tide will wave over the country that will take us into a new realm. it might change the song, or new
lyrics or new performance. only time will tell. but it is we the people who get to decide what our anthem is by what music we use in moments of civic celebration. susan: the book is called "o say can you hear?: a cultural biography of the star-spangled banner" and i am very appreciative of mark clague. thank you for your time. mark: thank you, susan. great to talk to you. >> all q&a programs are available on our website or as a podcast on c-span now. on about books we delve into the latest news about the publishing industry with interesting insider interviews with publishing industry experts will also give you updates on
current nonfiction authors and books the latest book reviews and we'll talk about the current nonfiction books featured on c-span's book tv. ke that. that's a different. that's a different animal. and now joining us on about books is tiffany justice. she's with a group called moms for liberty first off mrs. justice. what is your group? we are a nonprofit grassroots organization of parents across the country in our mission is to unify educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government and when you say all levels of government, does that include? checking and monitoring. what books are in school libraries? sure because we have government schools. have you ever recommended a book being removed from a library? am i personally haven't recommended a book be removed from the library, but if i was still sitting on school board, which i did here in florida from 2016 to 2020.
i'm a mom of four children who attend public school ages 17 through 10 if i had been aware of the books that were in these libraries and i wasn't but i would have then actually asked for many of these books to be removed because i do not believe that they are appropriate for the age groups in which they're being presented and it's this more of an age group thing for you than it is a political ideology. yeah, i don't really think politics belong in this conversation at all. what we're seeing is some very sexually explicit graphic material that has made its way into our classrooms and our campuses and our school libraries, and i think parents would like to know a couple things including how did those books get there and what processes and procedures are there to stop that from happening again there. be accountability here for what children are being taught and exposed to in school and does that begin with electing the school board? yeah, i absolutely i mean i love local control and i love serving on school board. it was a wonderful opportunity
and i think it's important that every community have that conversation about what's being taught in the schools and how people feel about it in the community and every voice can be heard, you know, there are situations where moms may have a concern about a book and maybe that concern as it is kind of reasoned out. it doesn't hold water. but the truth of the matter is that parents have the ability and the right to ask questions about their children's education. it's the fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. well one of the witnesses mrs. justice at the recent congressional hearing on book banning was mindy freeman. she's a philadelphia area mother and she was talking about her trans daughter. i want to get your response to what she had to say. lily also happens to be a female of trans experience. she is proud to be trans and we are proud of her. being able to be visible for others and seeing herself in the books. she reads is so very important.
i want to be clear. if there is one sound bite to arise from my appearance here today, let it be this one. no book made my child become transgender any more than a book could have turned her eyes from brown to blue. let me tell you a little bit about lily's journey. lily will tell you that as soon as she could recognize herself in the mirror the person looking back at her was not the person she was. the male presenting person reflecting back at her did not align correctly with her being. as lily was growing up during her younger years. she presented in what would be considered a more feminine way. as someone that had never known a transgender person while this out of gender norm behavior made my spouse and i questioned what was going on with lily. we did not discourage her from joining the things she loved. in early elementary school lily lacked the words insight and confidence to describe what she was feeling. as school activities began to separate boys from girls this only frustrated her.
in fourth grade when boys and girls were separated to learn about what was going on in their bodies during puberty lily began to panic. after sharing her feelings with my older two daughters. she came to my spouse in me. we did not have the knowledge of everything lgbtq, especially trans related. but what we did know is that we loved our child and that we would support her no matter what and this is when our learning journey began. we shared with lily's fifth grade teacher what lily was going through and her teacher brought to our attention alex. gino's book george now melissa an award-winning children's novel about a transforth grader and said that lily had the option to read it. we appreciated the visibility that this provided to lily as well as the support not only by the teacher but by the school for having age appropriate books accessible on the shelves. mrs. justice, what's your response to what mindy freeman
had to say about her trans daughter? now, i think there's a lot to unpack there to be honest with you. i'm glad that the parent and the teacher had a good line of communication and that the teacher was able to work with the parent as the parent was directing the upbringing of their child as they have the right to do to find resources to be able to help to support that child. and should that book that was referenced in that video be allowed to be in the lutt school library as far as it sounds like a book that's covering a lot of sensitive content including the sexuality and the gender identity or the sexual orientation perhaps of a child and so, you know, i will be honest and tell you that we have a contagion going on in this country something called rapid-onset gender dysphoria where we are seeing a huge spike in children that are identifying as transgender. it's extremely concerning to me as a mother and as a woman the idea that we're somehow telling boys or girls that there's a right way to be a boy or a girl.
it feels regressive in fact, and so there's a lot to talk about in that comment and what those mother in the comments that mom made but there's no doubt to me that that mom loves her child and wants to give that child everything that they need now. should that book be on a public school library to be accessible? every child and i think there are many parents across this country. that would tell you the answer to that is no in fact, it should not be available to every child. does that mean that the book is being banned? no, sir. it does not mean that it is being banned. it can be in public. it can be in public libraries. it can be in bookstores. there are lots of different places where parents can access that type of a book or community resources can be provided. however when we're talking about public schools, and we're talking about all of our children together, there's a bit of an understanding that we've had about the roles of school and home and those boundaries and so what i think you're seeing parents across the country saying is i raise my
children the government doesn't we don't co-parent with the government and there are certain sensitive subjects that we would like to be able to be directing the conversation around for our children. this is one of those things parents are very concerned about this idea about gender identity. that was never discussed in any of our public schools. now taking a front-row seat in our children's education and everything they do including for many of our girls how safe they feel in the bathrooms at their school. so public schools have made accommodations for children for a very long time and i think in this situation there need to be accommodations made for this child. so this child feels safe and valued that the mother is still directing the upbringing of the child, but that the other children and parents that that school also have the opportunity to broach these type of sensitive subjects that really we still believe belong at home. tiffany justice, was there an incident or a moment that created that made you co-found moms for liberty.
yeah, as i said, i'm a mom of four kids i unpack a lot of backpacks and then i ran for school board in my own community, but during covid i have to tell you that the normal procedure of a parent coming and expressing concerns about their child at that local level was broken at that time during covid and what i saw was a system a school system. that was very intent and would do anything they could to protect the system and the children were left to shoulder the burdens of adult selfishness and fear oftentimes and as a mom and as a school board member what i saw was districts ignoring parents ignoring their concerns about virtual learning and we are now dealing with a nation of children who are grappling with two years of lockdowns in this pandemic that have affected their lives in ways. i think many adults cannot even imagine parents voices need to be louder than any other stakeholder in conversation about education parents need to be part of these committees to decide. what's appropriate for children